Tag Archives: Digital Marketing

Digital marketing concepts you need to know

Digital marketing uses a terminology with many concepts that may sound confusing if you are not familiar with them. In this article, we will explain some core concepts by using a practical (but simplified) example to make things clearer. Imagine you want to do webinar, and you want people to sign up for it. From a digital marketing viewpoint, what needs to be done? The approach described below can be used for other digital marketing campaigns as well, e.g., to sell a book you wrote, etc.

People need to be able to sign up for your webinar, so you need a registration form. If it is a paying webinar, you will need to offer a payment option. So, you want people to get to that registration form and sign up. Before people will be willing to sign up, they will want to know more about the webinar, and they will have to be persuaded to do so. To accomplish that, you will use a landing page that provides them with the necessary information and invites them to sign up. And for them to find your landing page, you want to direct people to it by several means you have at your disposal, like social media, ads, an announcement on your website, a mailing to people who would be interested, etc. So, your digital marketing strategy looks something like this.

Conversion Funnel
Conversion Funnel

A first set of concepts you should get familiar with have to do with conversion. In the widest sense, you want to convert the people who see your ad or notification on your website, social media or in your email campaign into customers who sign up for your webinar. To get them to do that, we are using different steps, where each time we want them to take a specific action: click on the link that leads to your landing page, and then go to the registration form, and then sign up. The term conversion is also used for each one of these steps, when your prospect takes the action that you want them to take. (For convenience’s sake, we will use the term visitor below as a rubric term for all who visit your website, see your ad, see your social media posts, read your email campaign, etc.)

In electronic commerce, this approach is called conversion marketing. It is marketing with the intention of increasing conversions, i.e., converting visitors into (paying) customers. The conversion rate is the percentage of visitors that convert, i.e., take the desired action:

Conversion rate = (conversions / total visitors) * 100%

In our example, we have three successive actions we want them to take, and you want to guide them through that process: click on the link to the landing page, click on the link to register, and then sign up. Each time only a percentage will take the desired action. That is why this approach is often called a conversion funnel.

In this context, the concept of a bounce rate is relevant. The Wikipedia describes a bounce rate as “an Internet marketing term used in web traffic analysis. It represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and then leave (“bounce”) rather than continuing to view other pages within the same site.” If we take our example, for this campaign you would have three specific pages on your website: first an announcement, e.g., in the news section or in your blog, then the landing page, and finally the registration page. If the visitor leaves your website from the page with your announcement, from your landing page, or from the registration page before they register, that would be a bounce. The bounce rate allows you to keep track of how each step performs.

So, in our example, we want three successive conversions, and we want to be able to track the conversion rate for each one of these steps (which is called conversion rate tracking). Keeping track of the conversions rates for each one of these steps is done for conversion rate optimization (CRO) purposes. Conversion rate optimization is often defined as “the practice of increasing the percentage of users who perform a desired action on a website. (…) Think of it as the process of focusing on understanding what drives, stops, and persuades your users, so you can give them the best user experience possible—and that, in turn, is what makes them convert and ultimately improves your website conversion rate.” (Hotjar.com).

It is worth noting that platforms that sell ads, as well as most social media offer built-in ways to track how your ad or post is doing. By default, websites do not have that facility built in, but is possible to install tools like Google Analytics or web log analyzers for tracking purposes. They, too, will provide you with the necessary information. (We will pay more attention to web traffic analyzers in a next article).

Crucial in this approach is your landing page. This is where you will provide your visitors with the necessary information to convince them to sign up. A landing page “is a standalone web page, created specifically for a marketing or advertising campaign.” It is where a visitor ‘lands’ after they click on a link in an email, or your ad, or your post in social media, etc. “Unlike web pages, which typically have many goals and encourage exploration, landing pages are designed with a single focus or goal, known as a call to action (or CTA, for short).” (Unbounce.com).

Typically, your landing page will open with a short, positive, and empowering statement about your webinar that focuses on what the attendees will gain. Then, you can provide a short text that provides the necessary information about what and why. It is important to not just offer this information in text, but also as well as a visual – either an infographic or a short (2 to 3 minute) video. Make sure to include some social proof, i.e., testimonials of existing clients and/or people who have attended previous webinars. Then lastly, you have your call to action, which on your landing page is a button with a link to subscribe. Again, it is a good practice to make this call to action an empowering statement (e.g., “Yes, I want to know how to …”).

So, a Call to Action is an invitation for your visitor to do something. In our example, we will have a CTA in each step: a link in the ads, social media posts, web pages, etc.; a link to the registration page, and a button to actually register on the registration page. For a CTA to be as effective as possible, all links to other pages than the one you want to direct your visitor to, should be avoided. If you want to provide some optional additional information, use a pop-up screen instead.

Another term that sometimes pops up in this context is Key Performance Indicators (KPI). You probably already are familiar with the term from the software you use to manage your law firm, where you can, e.g., define how many billable hours per month each lawyer must generate. That is one example of a KPI. In our digital marketing context, the conversion rate also is a KPI. Conversion rate optimization can then be seen as a way to improve your KPI scores.

To keep track of what works best to improve your conversion rate, you can experiment with different versions of an ad, or a landing page, etc. A common practice is to do some A/B Testing. “A/B testing (also known as split testing) is a process of showing two variants of the same web page to different segments of website visitors at the same time and comparing which variant drives more conversions.” (vwo.com).

In future articles, we will focus more in depth on landing pages and on the metrics that help you evaluate your conversion rates.

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Instagram for Law Firms

In today’s article, we have a look at Instagram and at how it can be useful for lawyers and law firms. Surprisingly, only 25% of lawyers use Instagram for marketing purposes, even though for most young adults, it is the most important social media network.

Let us start by explaining what it is, for those of you who are not familiar with it. Instagram is social network service for sharing photos and short videos (of up to 60 seconds). It was launched as an app for smart phones in 2010. What made the app stand out, was that it allowed users to easily apply predefined filters to photos they had taken, and then share them either publicly or with their followers. It works with hashtags and locations, and users can browse other users’ public content via these hashtags and locations. Just as is the case with Twitter, hashtag topics can be trending. Users can like photos and videos, and they can comment on them. The app quickly became very popular and was bought by Facebook in 2012.

Why would a law firm consider having an Instagram account? The main reason is for marketing purposes. Instagram is the world’s third most used social media network, with over one billion monthly active users. (Only Facebook and YouTube have more, with 2.8 billion and 2 billion respectively). To put things in perspective, LinkedIn only has 260 million monthly active users, while Twitter has 187 million. More importantly, Instagram is the most used social media platform for consumers between the ages of 18 and 35. And with geolocation tagging, it is an easy way to reach local target audiences.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, which are text-based social media, Instagram is primarily a visual medium. And that is one of the main reasons for its popularity: visuals are more appealing than text. And they also tend to evoke more responses: Instagram posts get more engagement than any other social media platforms. Furthermore, it is possible to link your Instagram account to your Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Facebook account, so photos on Instagram are shared on those platforms as well.

Also worth mentioning, is that Instagram can effectively be used as a recruitment tool, as well. (As mentioned above, young adults are far more likely to be on Instagram than on LinkedIn).

So, what services does Instagram offer? It started as a service to share photos and short videos, and that still is what it is mainly used for. But it offers other services as well. Let us start with Instagram Stories. In his article for rankings.io, Chris Dryer explains that “Instagram Stories are photos and videos that you can share throughout the day in a vertical, slideshow format. Unlike regular photo and video posts, these do not appear in the regular Instagram newsfeed or in the grid on your Instagram profile. Instead, they appear at the top of the newsfeed for those who follow your Instagram account.” Important to know is that stories remain available for only 24 hours.

Next, we have Instagram Live. Instagram Live is technically a part of Instagram Stories, and allows you to broadcast a live stream from your phone. These livestreams can last up to one hour. Mind you, as they are a part of the Instagram Stories, they are by default only available for 24 hours after the livestream. It is however possible to save a livestream as a ‘highlight‘, which means it will be added to your user profile.

Another video service Instagram offers, is Instagram TV, usually shortened to IGTV. Whereas Instagram Live videos do not appear in a newsfeed and do automatically disappear, Instagram TV videos are posted to your newsfeed, where a copy of them – with its own URL – remains available. Videos of up to one hour can be uploaded if done so from a web browser. If directly uploaded as a video recorded on your phone, the length is limited to 15 minutes of video.

Instagram also offers Business Pages / Business Profiles. For these, a professional account is needed, but that is as simple as activating the account as a professional one in the settings. Once that is done, the option to fill out a business profile becomes available. Now, if your law firm already has a page on Facebook, it is possible to link your Instagram Business and Facebook pages. This has to be done from within Facebook and will make the information you have on your Facebook page available in Instagram too. It is also possible for the two to automatically share posts, meaning if something is posted on one, it appears on the other as well. So, this is the place to add all the local business details of your law firm. Especially if you know that more than 200 million Instagram users visit an Instagram Business Profile at least once a day.

An additional benefit of setting your Instagram account up as a professional account, is that you get access to Instagram Insights, which provide you with detailed engagement analytics. That makes it easy to follow up on Key Performance Indicators.

As is the case with other social media networks, Instagram also offers the ability to publish Ads. And just like in Facebook and LinkedIn, it is possible to very narrowly define the parameters to identify your target audience.

How do you get started? Setting up an account is easy, and can be done from a smart phone where you first have to download the app. Or you can just sign up using a browser. If you have a Facebook account, you can use your Facebook account to sign up and subsequently sign in. Keep in mind, however, that while signing up can be done from a PC with a browser, uploading photos and videos typically must be done through the app on your smart phone.

Then you start sharing photos. The aim here is to attract leads and to do that, you use your photos to build credibility, trust, and brand awareness among your followers. In her article for Law Firm Ambition, Becky Simms gives the following advice.

  • Build a persona, show your personality and the personality of your law firm. While doing this, focus on approachability.
  • Show the people in your firm, and make sure to post some “life behind the scenes” photographs.
  • Demonstrate community involvement.
  • Look for opportunities to illustrate your expertise, without giving legal advice. Post pictures of articles you have written, webinars you have given, conferences you spoke at or attended, etc.
  • Check whether your colleagues can provide content.
  • Avoid direct self-promotion.
  • Use the Instagram app on your mobile phone to take photos.
  • Aim for a relevant image with every social networking post.
  • Use hashtags on Instagram to make your images more visible / easier to find. Don’t be shy to use many hashtags.
  • Check what other lawyers are doing for inspiration.
  • Keep a watching brief to see how the Instagram platform develops.

In an article in Forbes Magazine, Jenna Gross recommends using the following marketing tactics:

  • Create a plan of action.
  • Elicit emotions.
  • Build a visual narrative.
  • Create conversations.
  • Simplify the path for potential clients to become clients.

Two more practical tips: there are third-party programs like Buffer and Hootsuite that allow you to schedule posts in advance. They both offer free and paying plans. You can start with the free version and upgrade if need be.

As mentioned above, uploading videos and photos must be done from a smart phone. There are mainly two solutions if you want to use your PC or laptop instead. The first one is to install Bluestack which will allow you to run Android Apps on your PC or laptop. Once Bluestack is installed, you install the Instagram for Android app, and you are ready to go. Alternatively, you can use the Vivaldi browser, which allows Instagram to run as a desktop application in a web panel from where photos can also be uploaded. (See https://vivaldi.com/blog/instagram-post-from-computer/ for an explanation).

So, go ahead, and give it your best shot.

 

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The 2020 Social Law Firm Index

As usual, some weeks ago Good2bSocial (www.good2bsocial.com) published its annual Social Law Firm Index. If you are not familiar with it, it is study of social media marketing adoption, use, and practices within the legal industry. It analyses each firm’s presence on the internet and across social media and evaluates their social usage to extend thought leadership content and to engage with clients and constituents. It measures social media reach, engagement, and marketing performance on platforms that include Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Based on this information, the report also publishes rankings of America’s Top 200 law firms for best social media achievement.

Due to the coronavirus, 2020 was a different year, and this shows in the findings of the report. Here are the key takeaways.

  1. Firms bulked up their digital marketing strategies during the pandemic: In the olden days, lawyers mainly relied on ‘social marketing’ to gather clients through, e.g., person to person interactions at social events, etc. Even in this digital age, it was a quite common and important way to reach potential new clients. But in 2020 the coronavirus made sure that no longer was a viable option. As law firms had to shift their entire practice online, they also were forced to embrace digital marketing strategies to extents never witnessed before. In 2020, “we saw firms embrace webinars, write and promote content, increase their social media advertising budgets and launch podcasts. Digital marketing is here to stay and it’s great watching firms embrace it and learn from best practices and opportunities to grow.” (Guy Alvarez, CEO Good2bSocial).
  2. The year of the webinars: In 2020, webinars became one of the most important tools for law firms to continue marketing and providing valuable content for their clients and potential clients. Where webinars have always been an effective digital marketing tool for law firms, in 2020 they became a necessity.
  3. The rise of podcasts: 2020 also was the year law firms started embracing podcasts. An unprecedented 38% of the top 200 US law firms are producing podcasts, and that percentage is expected to keep increasing in 2021. Podcasts allow law firms to tell their story, demonstrate their expertise and subject-matter authority, while potentially reaching brand-new audiences.
  4. Increased interest in SEO: in 2019, Google made some fundamental changes to its search algorithms. The underlying idea is that people are looking for answers to questions. So, the algorithms were adapted to prioritize web pages that provide the relevant information to answer those questions. In other words, the focus shifted from key word search to relevant content search. This forced many law firms to re-evaluate the content they were providing and to shift their SEO efforts to emphasize the most useful, relevant and targeted content they are providing.
  5. Paid LinkedIn goes mainstream: law firms noticed that their advertising on LinkedIn was far more effective than on other platforms. “The platform’s major selling point for marketers is its ability to target an audience by their industry, job title and work experience and more, not just their demographics.” As a result, paid advertising on LinkedIn has become the new normal for law firms.

Apart from these key takeaways, the report also contains several predictions for 2021:

Technology adoption will be at an all-time high: the adoption of technology by law firms was spectacularly accelerated by the pandemic. Because people could not meet in person, they met in cyberspace, and the legal profession followed suit: not only did lawyers start having virtual meetings with clients, but court cases too were handled online. As a result, law firms have relied on technology like never before and that is expected to continue in 2021. As they are getting familiar with all these new technologies, they will continue to reap more benefits from it. Law firms started embracing creativity and incorporating artificial intelligence, which also became a tool for data-driven marketing campaigns. It also allows to extract the right insights from the data they already have collected in their different software platforms. All of this is expected to contribute to increased operational efficiency, and better risk management.

Greater adoption of account-based marketing: one of the shifts we are witnessing is the new focus on account-based marketing. Account-based marketing is also known as key account marketing. The idea is to identify key accounts and then customize your marketing strategies for each one of them individually, rather than having one general marketing strategy for all accounts. It is more effective, and makes it easier to track and measure goals, and identify a clear ROI. As it focuses on the client’s journey and experience, it also results in a boost in client loyalty.

Increased use of social media advertising: the pandemic has led to an increase in social media advertising and this is expected to continue in 2021. LinkedIn saw its market share among law firm increase, and Facebook wants to remain competitive and is modifying its offerings. The result will be that it will be easier and more effective to use social media advertising than before.

Greater emphasis on website seo + cro: as attracting new clients online is becoming the new normal, more attention will be paid to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Where websites used to be online brochures, they are now full-fledged tools for acquiring new clients. The conversion rate is the percentage of your website visitors or leads that become actual clients, and CRO focuses on strategies and technologies to optimize those conversion rates. It is a step-by-step process that includes looking for ways to engage clients, including Calls to Action (CTA) on web pages, etc.

In previous years, the report also included a list of best and worst practices. This year’s report is slightly different in that it still contains a list with worst practices to avoid, but no longer contains a list of general best practices. Instead, those best practices are now analysed per specific platform, which falls beyond the scope of this article. We do have the time to go over the list of the worst practices that should be avoided.

Websites aren’t optimized for conversions: the primary function of a website should be to attract new clients, and for that reason the focus should be on conversions.

No true clarity on target audience or business goals: a website should not be a mere presence on the Internet, aimed at the public at large. Law firms need to identify their target audiences and ideal clients, and they need to clearly define what they want to accomplish with their website.

Not using data/ technology to evolve: to effectively use your website to attract new clients, you have to keep track and follow-up on all kinds of metrics: what works well, and what does not, when it comes to standing out, attracting the attention of potential clients and ultimately converting those leads to clients?

Only focusing on the top of the funnel: CRO strategies use the analogy of a funnel, where at the top of the funnel, you have all the potential new clients, and at the bottom of the funnel, you have those that become actual clients. The CRO strategies are aimed at guiding the leads through that funnel. Many law firms make the mistake of only focusing on the first step, or the top of the funnel. They also need to pay attention to the next steps, or the middle of the funnel. “Middle-of-funnel prospects are already in the buying funnel and are perfect candidates for targeted marketing campaigns. They need attention that is unique and relevant to them. When law firms build a collaborative relationship with the prospect, they can acquire more data about them to better understand their problems and needs and offer them the personalized approach to close the deal.”

That concludes the quick overview of the 2020 Social Law Firm Index. 2020 surely was an interesting year from a digital marketing point of view, where the pandemic became an unexpected catalyst for faster digital marketing adoption. That evolution is expected to continue in 2021.

 

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The 2019 Social Law Firm Index

Good2bSocial (www.good2bsocial.com) recently published its annual ‘Social Law Firm Index.’ It is study of social media marketing adoption, use, and best practices within the legal industry. The Social Law Firm Index analyses each firm’s presence on the internet and across social media and evaluates their social usage to extend thought leadership content and to engage with clients and constituents. It measures social media reach, engagement, and marketing performance on platforms that include Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Based on this information, the report also publishes rankings of America’s Top 200 law firms for best social media achievement.

The report observed the following trends for 2019:

  • There is a notable rise in ‘Paid Social’, especially on LinkedIn. When you publish an article, your followers or connections can read the article. That is referred to as organic social or organic reach. Paid social is when you pay the platform to promote your content as ‘sponsored content’ on other people’s accounts. The amount of law firms that uses paid social tripled over the last year, from 10 to 30%. LinkedIn remains the most popular platform for lawyers to publish and promote their content.
  • There is a decrease in the use of Facebook, and an increase in the use of Instagram. This reflects a general trend that is not limited to law firms: younger users prefer Instagram to Facebook.
  • People use more videos and podcasts. Traditionally, law firms mainly use blogs. But to stay competitive on social media, video is now a required medium, and law firms are increasingly starting to use video. There also is an increase in podcasts. (Our recent article on podcasts explained the benefits).
  • Law Firms continue to invest in marketing automation. “With marketing automation, your law firm can utilize various tools [to] save time, free up bandwidth and ultimately improve ROI. Time-consuming processes can be replaced by a system that can automatically send out emails based on an email response or website visit. When firms combine content with marketing automation, they can analyze what their clients engage with and how. By knowing more about your client, you can deliver better customer service.” (Legal Newswire)

The report always selects the best performers, and based on their performance, distills the current best practices.

  • Measurement and ROI: the law firms that score well clearly identify their goals and develop clear metrics to evaluate how well different strategies work.
  • Think like a leader: “Most Law firms produce client-centric content that discusses pain points or issues that their clients are facing. They are also publishing content that provides added value to their existing clients. Thought leaders also produce content on a regular and frequent basis, written in an easy-to-digest and understandable style and length.”
  • Employee Engagement: legal consumers want to know the people who will represent their interests and use social media to learn about them. The best performing law firms are investing time and money to properly train their lawyers and employees on the use of social media and digital marketing. They also use specialized platforms that offer employee advocacy tools, like LinkedIn, Elevate, PostBeyond, and Clearview Social.
  • Automation: as was mentioned before, more and more law firms invest in automating their marketing efforts. Notable is the increase in law firms using chat bots on their websites to engage with new leads, 24/7.

The report traditionally also focuses on the worst performers. These are the mistakes you want to avoid.

  • Making marketing decisions without data: The majority of law firms don’t use any metrics to evaluate and improve their marketing efforts. (Confirming what this year’s ABA Tech Report called ‘random acts of marketing’).
  • Having home pages and practice area pages on your website that offer low content. One important criterion, e.g., is whether the page answers the searcher’s query. Avoid pages that are thin on content or merely copy content that can be found on other pages. Are you using the right key words that will attract potential clients? “In today’s marketplace, firms need more than just a sharply designed website—they also need to make sure that they’re using appropriate key terms, that they have content that is both useful and relevant, and that there is an organized and logical home page.”

The report expects the trends it identified (and mentioned in the first part of this article) to continue in 2020.

 

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Marketing Essentials for Law Firms

For most, if not all law schools, marketing is not a part of the curriculum. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Practicing law is one of the liberal professions, and as such is ruled by its own ethics which typically limit the marketing options of their members. While there may be differences from country to country and even from bar to bar, when it comes to marketing, lawyers are not allowed to do what companies are. Still, for the things that you are allowed to do as a lawyer, there are certain basic marketing principles that always apply, even whether it’s writing blog articles or about what you put on your website.

It is beyond the scope of one blog article to give a thorough introduction to marketing. So, we will stick to some essentials. These can be summarized in five sets of questions.

The first set of questions has to do with your target audience: Who is your target audience, and what are they looking for? You must identify your target audience and learn about their needs and their interests. Are they big businesses, small business, or specific types of individuals? You have to find out where can reach your target audience: e.g., on what social media they are, etc.

The second set of questions has to with differentiating yourself from the competition: What sets you apart from the competition? Who is your competition? What are they doing? What services are they offering? What makes you different from them? This does not have to be limited to legal services, but also applies to the whole ‘customer service’ aspect of things: how client-centric are your competitors, and is your law firm?

The third set of questions has to do with the message you want to communicate to your target audience: What is your message? This applies to any communications you have with clients or potential clients, whether it’s a blog article, a video, an image, your website … Your message has to be tailored to suit your target audience.

The fourth set of questions has to do with the presentation of your message: how do you present your message? This applies to the medium you choose, to the language and the visuals (imagery and video) you use, as well as the layout, … One important aspect of the language you use, e.g., is the readability of your texts. All of these, too, should be chosen to best suit your target audience.

A fifth set of questions has to do with building customer loyalty: how do I retain clients, and create repeat business? It is a good habit to regularly do specific campaigns for your existing clients.

Once you have answered all those questions, you can proceed to the next two groups of questions. These largely fall into two separate categories: questions about the operational aspect of your marketing, and about your online presence.

With regard to the operational side of things, you must ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my business plan?
  • Will I handle my marketing internally or do I outsource?
  • What follow-up process do I have for prospective clients?
  • How many clients can I handle, at most?
  • What are my marketing goals?
  • What does my marketing budget look like? As a rule of thumb, it is generally recommended to spend at Least 2.5% of your revenue on marketing.

The last set of recommendations focuses more specifically on your online presence (website, blog, social media, etc.). Legal consumers are online customers: more than 90% of people with a legal issue look online for solutions first. If they need to get a lawyer, they mainly find them through recommendations and through online searches. But the vast majority of people looking to hire a lawyer will check that lawyer out online first, i.e. before contacting them. So, from a marketing point of view you should:

  • Have a (well-designed) website. Does your website live up to the current best practices?
  • Optimize your website for search engines: What are the keywords your target audience will be looking for?
  • Measure and track all of your marketing efforts. In a future article, we will focus more on the relevant marketing metrics, and what you can learn from them.
  • Install Google Analytics on your website, not only to keep track of who visits your website, but also to see which pages work and which don’t.
  • Maintain a digital database of all contacts so you can follow up effectively
  • Create Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages, because it is more than likely that that is where your target audience will find you.
  • Get reviews, testimonials, etc. In an online world, social proof is essential.

In future articles, we will deal more in detail with some of these aspects.

 

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On Content Strategies

In previous articles, we explained how legal consumers have become online consumers. We also explored how for that reason content marketing has become an essential part of the digital marketing campaigns that are designed to engage legal consumers. Content creation is a powerful marketing tool that contributes to generating business revenue. It also helps in establishing a good online reputation. In order to successfully market your content, you need a content strategy. In this article, you will find an introduction to content strategies.

What is a content strategy? Hannah Smith and Adria Saracino defined it as “the high-level vision that guides future content development to deliver against a specific business objective.” What they are saying is that you shouldn’t just provide content, but you need to first define a specific business objective. Once you have done this, you can start planning your content with this objective in mind.

So, how does one plan a content strategy? Where do you start? In essence, defining a content strategy consists of three phases: identifying your business objective, identifying your target audience, and identifying the content that your target audience needs. The first thing to do is to identify your business objective. What does your law firm stand for, and what do you want to achieve with the content you provide? Be as specific as possible. Then learn as much as possible about your target audience and what you have to offer them that sets you apart from the competition. Analyse what information your clients need. Researching all of this will provide you with the data that will show you what to write, for whom, how and where.

The article 11 Steps to create a Content Marketing Strategy to Grow Your Business provides an excellent approach that breaks the process down in 11 steps:

  1. Set your mission and your goals
  2. Establish your Key Performance Indexes (KPIs), i.e. establish what the measurable factors are that define your success and that will allow you measure that success
  3. Know your audience
  4. If you already have content available, assess your current position by doing a content audit: what do you have, how successful is it, what channels and content types are you using?
  5. Figure out the best content channels for the content you’re providing (which platforms, social media, etc.)
  6. Decide on content types: are you going for a text blog only, or will you provide videos and/or static visuals like infographics, etc.?
  7. Identify and allocate resources: define team roles, i.e. define who will write what, who will create graphic materials, who will create videos? What will the hosting cost?
  8. Create a content calendar: brainstorm your content ideas in advance, and plan when to publish what, so your campaigns stay on track.
  9. Create your content
  10. Distribute and market your content: use more than one channel, write guest articles, bring your content to the attention of ‘influencers’, etc.
  11. Measure the results. Checking the Key Performance Indexes to measure how successful your content is, is a step most law firms pay insufficient attention to.

In his articles, Jay Harrington from Attorney at work gives several practical suggestions. In the remainder of this article, we’ll have a cursory glance at them.

When it comes to defining the actual content you will be providing, Harrington suggests thinking in terms of “wisdom marketing.” The best way to get your audience’s attention, is to provide them with high quality content. By sharing your wisdom, you can build a foundation of trust, loyalty and respect. Harrington also suggests focusing on ‘Evergreens,’ i.e. on high quality content that has a timeless character, rather than paying attention to current affairs, which typically has a relevance that is limited in time. Evergreens include how-to lists, resource lists (i.e. compiling lists of other articles that are relevant to your audience), and FAQs.

Harrington also advises using a ‘divisible strategy.’ With a divisible content strategy, you strategically and intentionally blend written and visual storytelling for the purpose of more effectively spreading ideas to specific audiences. In this approach you first define a core idea and create a single content asset, typically an article or white paper, that then functions as the foundation from which you create multiple forms of visual storytelling content: infographics, animated videos, SlideShare decks, social media motion graphics, etc.

Finally, Harrington suggests repurposing existing content: “A substantive 1,500-word article can be repurposed to a white paper or e-book or repurposed down to a series of blog posts or infographics. A presentation can be given as a webinar. A blog post can be made into a podcast.”

 

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An Introduction to Content Marketing for Lawyers

In previous articles we mentioned the importance of content marketing. So, what is it? Why is it important, and is it important for lawyers, too? In this article, we explore some of the basics of content marketing for lawyers.

What is content marketing? The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” The Wikipedia defines it as “a form of marketing focused on creating, publishing and distributing content for a targeted audience online. It is often used by businesses in order to attract attention and generate leads, expand their customer base, generate or increase online sales, increase brand awareness or credibility, and engage an online community of users.”

So, content marketing is about attracting customers. Traditionally, the buying process consisted of four steps: 1) a potential customer or client would become aware of a need, 2) he or she would next research what solutions are available, 3) would then consider and evaluate the options, and 4) would finally buy a specific product or service. In this traditional process, content marketing is effective for the first two stages of the process in that it helps raise awareness of solutions and educates consumers about products or services.

These days, however, legal consumers are online consumers, and in an online world, things go slightly differently. In previous articles, we pointed out that successful online marketing strategies rely on the ACT methodology: Attract, Convert, and Transform. (See our article on ‘Why Social Media Matter’ for more information). Where online marketing mainly differs from traditional marketing is that the conversion process consists of two steps: before turning a website visitor into a customer or client, that visitor must be turned into a content consumer first. And that is where the role of content marketing becomes crucial. And, yes, this applies to lawyers, too.

Unlike a once-off advertising campaign, content marketing is a long-term strategy, based on building a strong relationship with your target audience, by giving them high-quality content that is very relevant to them on a consistent basis. In doing so, you build awareness, trust, and loyalty among your readers.

Joleena Louis, e.g., is a matrimonial and family law attorney, who uses her blog to give potential clients free legal advice. She found that this benefited her in three ways: It positions her as an expert and authority in her practice area. It helps her get more clients. And it gets her loyal followers and free marketing.

There are many ways one can present potential customers with valuable content. Amongst the most popular ways are infographics, blogs, podcasts, videos, and books. Other examples include news flashes (in a blog, email or newsletter), white papers, e-books, email newsletters, case studies, podcasts, how-to guides, question and answer articles as well as live sessions, photos, FAQs, discussion groups, and testimonials.

So, how does one start? You basically have two options: you can outsource it, or you can do it yourself. If you want to do it yourself, blogging is the easiest option. (We previously published an article on starting a blog). You can start your own blog on your website, or you can use a dedicated blogging platform. You also have the option to publish articles on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Medium. And once you published your article, you can use social media campaigns to alert people that new content is available.

To attract readers, your content must meet a need or interest of your readers. In other words, it must add value for your readers. Your content also must stand out. In Forbes Magazine, Josh Steimle wrote: “Content is good if they genuinely want to read it. Content is great if they’re willing to pay to read it. If you want to see great examples of content, just look at what you’ve paid to read, watch, or listen to lately. (…) If you’re not sure how you can add value through content marketing, ask your existing customers what kind of content you can produce that would be helpful to them now, or would have been helpful to them when they were looking for your product or service. They’ll tell you.”

Finally, the content you present to your audience must not be an academic presentation. Research has shown that what works best is to use informal and engaging story telling techniques.

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Digital Marketing for Lawyers, part 2

This is a follow-up article to an article we published three months ago, which also dealt with digital marketing for lawyers. In it, we explained why digital marketing is important for lawyers and we also focused on some of the tools lawyers have at their disposal: websites, blogging, SEO, social media, reputation management and reviews.

Marketing often is something that lawyers see as a necessary evil. To make matters worse, online marketing is substantially different from traditional marketing. Some of this was discussed in our ‘Why Social Media Matter‘ article. In it, we explained that “the old ways of turning visitors into customers are not the most effective in an online paradigm. In the new online marketplace, everybody offering products or services must realise that they also are publishers, and that potential customers are content consumers. The way to turn website visitors into customers is to turn them into regular content consumers first.”

In this new marketplace, lawyers must publish websites and blogs, and engage with potential customers on social media. They must take things into account like user experience and website design; mobile functionality and local search presence. They have to focus on online intake of new clients, on customer service and client experience, as well as on reviews, reputation and authority. And most importantly, they have to work on how to turn website and blog visitors into regular content consumers, before they can be converted to clients.

So, practically speaking, where does one start? The first step is to know your audience and competitors. One of the advantages of the online marketplace is that we can have better access to all the pertinent data. We can learn who visits our website or blog, as well as who we are connected with on social media. This allows us to create visitor profiles, which then in turn allows us to better accommodate their wishes and expectations. It is important to keep the focus on potential customers, when determining what content to provide. At the same time, it is also important to keep track of what the competition is doing, so we can a) differentiate ourselves sufficiently, and b) remain competitive.

The next step is to then define an engagement strategy. The adage that content is king still applies. Know where your potential customers are on social media, and offer them relevant content. What has changed in 2017 is that the content people are looking for is no longer limited to quality text content. They also want visual content: infographics, e.g., are more popular than ever before, as is video content. So, make sure you use those. (In a future article, we’ll deal more in depth with content marketing specifically).

The way to further finetune your strategies and to find out what works for your law firm is, again, to diligently keep track of the relevant metrics. Find out what pages on your website and blog are popular. Discover how people found them. Learn what posts on social media led to visitors of your website and blog.

If you are familiar with some of the more traditional marketing techniques, then Teresa Matich’s article on “How to Take Your Old School Marketing Techniques Online” on the Wishpond blog can be useful. She illustrates how online marketing uses different tools, and that we have to move:

  • from business cards to websites: 96% of people with a legal issue turn to the Internet first, and nearly 40% of people needing a lawyer look on the Internet first to find one.
  • from public speaking to blogging: you build a reputation by publishing high quality articles on the Internet.
  • from the phone book to online ratings directories: people no longer just want to find a lawyer, they want to know whether he or she is any good, and they will look for online reviews.
  • from bus stop ads to Facebook ads: people looking for a lawyer spend just over a quarter of their time doing so on social media, so it makes sense to advertise on them.

 

Alex Barthet, a Miami based lawyer, gives some additional useful advice, based on his personal experiences with online marketing.

  • Claim your online profiles: online services like Google, Yelp, and Avvo let you create profiles. Often these are among the first places potential clients go looking.
  • Also claim your social profiles on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
  • Be careful with paid profiles: they usually offer very little extra value.
  • Use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising carefully, and make sure to determine a maximum budget that cannot be exceeded.
  • Don’t fall for sales pitches from marketing companies that want to lock you into long-term contracts.

 

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Digital Marketing for Lawyers

The Wikipedia defines digital marketing as an umbrella term for the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the Internet, but also including mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium.

In 2017, digital marketing is a must, and this applies to lawyers, too. The following statistics, updated for 2017, explain why this is the case:

  • 96% of people with a legal issue use the Internet first to find answers with regard to their problem.
  • 38% of people looking to hire a lawyer turn to the Internet first. (29% ask a friend or relative, 10% go directly to the local bar association, 4% rely on business directories like the Yellow Pages).
  • Once legal consumers have narrowed down their search to one or more potential lawyers, 74% of all legal consumers will visit that lawyer’s or law firms’ websites first, before taking action.
  • 74% of all legal consumers end up contacting a lawyer they found on the Internet, and of those 74%, 87% end up hiring that lawyer.
  • 72% of people looking for a lawyer hire the first lawyer they speak to.
  • 70% of law firms have generated new cases through their website in the last year.
  • Potential clients for law firms spend on average 16 minutes per hour on various social media platforms. (In other words, people looking for a lawyer spend just over a quarter of their time doing so on social media).
  • More than half of interviewed law firms grew their number of clients due to increased social media engagement.
  • When legal firms use video content for marketing purposes, web traffic from search engines increases by 41%. The current prediction is that by 2020, video will make up 82% of all consumer internet traffic.

In other words, legal consumers are increasingly using digital media to find and hire lawyers, and you are missing out on potential clients if they can’t find you on those digital media.

So, what tools does a lawyer have, to engage in digital marketing? The most important ones are:

  • A website,
  • A blog,
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization),
  • Social Media, and
  • Reputation Management

Let us explore those briefly.

Website: in a previous article we pointed out that websites must have a quick load time, be mobile-friendly, contain relevant imagery, and have a modern design, and easy navigation. To convert visitors into content consumers and clients, the texts on your site must be client-focused, and must convey clarity, trust, relatability, and differentiation (i.e. they must explain why a potential client should choose you over others). Adding personal information helps build trust and relatability.

In 2017, having high quality video on your website dramatically increases your chances of receiving traffic, and of making a good first impression. Websites should include a ‘call to action’, i.e. encourage visitors to do something (subscribe to a blog or newsletter, follow you on social media, etc.). Make sure you can easily be contacted: have your telephone number and email address clearly visible, and include a contact form.

Blogging: in one of our previous articles, we showed how to start your blog. One of blogging’s biggest advantages is that it accelerates relationships and helps establish your reputation. Develop a strategy for your blog: write about items that are you passionate about, define your niche, and know who your target audience is. For lawyers, it is generally recommended that your blog is independent from the website of your law firm. (If it’s part of the website, it’s often perceived as a sales gimmick). Listen to your audience and engage with them. Remember to write to the medium, i.e. the writing style for a blog is typically informal. And make sure to build social media equity: your blog needs to be published or promoted on social media.

SEO: Search Engine Optimization is the mystical holy grail of success in reaching your target audience on the Internet. How does it work? Search engines scan your website and blog, etc., then create an index, and finally rank the results. There are many factors that influence that ranking. Some of the most important on-page factors include the URLs and the site architecture, the title tags, the body content, the internal linking structure, as well as page load speed. The most important off-page factor consists of the backlinks to your site, which include the backlinks on social media. For lawyers, local ranking is important, too, as people typically look for a lawyer in the neighbourhood. NAP information, i.e. Name, Address, and Phone, must be easy to find. Other factors that influence ranking are mobile-friendliness, and having a disclaimer, a privacy statement, and a site map.

Social Media: in two previous articles, we first explained why social media matter, and provided a short introduction on how to use them. Using social media to attract clients by engaging with them is fast, free, and it works. Find out where your audience is and where your messages will carry the most impact, and focus your efforts there. Using social media can be a balancing act, where you don’t want to come across as merely promoting your business: discuss general legal content, but also discuss firm activity outside of legal representation, and reveal something about your personality.

Finally, Reputation Management is an often-overlooked aspect of digital marketing. A first piece of advice would be to build a ‘wall of content’: provide enough information that potential clients want to retain you. Provide not only testimonials but also customer reviews, and allow clients to give online feedback. (Make a habit of asking your clients to give you a review. Online feedback is free research into how your clients perceive you). It also vital to learn how to respond to negative feedback: done correctly, a response comment communicates responsiveness, attention to feedback, and strength of character.

 

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